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Shabazz Should Not Have Been Steelers’ First Choice To Waive

On Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers learned of an abdominal injury suffered by second-year kicker Chris Boswell that jeopardized his ability to play the following day. They acted quickly in signing free agent kicker Randy Bullock. It proved to be an important decision, as Boswell did not dress for the game, and Bullock provided the offense with 10 of its 24 points, including three field goals.

As it turns out, the other half of that transaction ended up being pretty notable as well, because the Steelers released first-year cornerback Al-Hajj Shabazz in order to make room for Bullock. Today, the former undrafted free agent was claimed off waivers by the Texans.

That means that Shabazz is now on the Texans’ 53-man roster, where no other team has access to him unless Houston at some point chooses to release him. While that would not be out of the ordinary, the Steelers no longer have any control over him.

And you would have to think that the team had every intention of keeping him within their organization. They signed him to the practice squad following the initial roster cuts, and then promoted him to the 53-man roster for the fifth game of the season when a number of injuries in the secondary made it necessary to bring up depth.

While he was released after the game in order to make room for roster needs elsewhere, he was re-signed to the practice squad, and, later in the season, was promoted back to the 53-man roster once again.

But that doesn’t mean that it wasn’t a mistake to choose him as the 53rd man on the roster, and thus the player who is the most at risk of being released in order to make room for another position. Shabazz was only the fifth cornerback on the roster, and one of 10 defensive backs. It’s not exactly like they were overstocked.

Shabazz is an interesting player who I believe was evolving into a contributor. In particular, he saw a significant number of snaps on special teams, which is not the case for several other potential candidates for release.

He played 62 snaps on special teams. That is 62 snaps in just five games, by the way. He played 13 snaps, or 63 percent, in Week 11, and 21 snaps, or 70 percent, in Week 10. It should be noted, however, that he only played three snaps on special teams in Week 12, which was 14 percent.

In the meantime, the Steelers are carrying Daryl Richardson on the 53-man roster. While DeAngelo Williams is injured, Richardson has not even been dressing. Other potential candidates for release could have included Xavier Grimble or L.J. Fort.

I should conclude by noting that in the grand scheme of things, this transaction is likely to go down as the smallest of footnotes in Steelers history, and the odds of Shabazz developing into a quality starting cornerback seems unlikely. The sky is not falling. But that doesn’t mean they made the right decision here, at least from my point of view. Take that for whatever it’s worth to you.

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